Right of reply: land claims

2014-09-30 00:00

EDWARD West’s opinion “The lie of the land” (The Witness, September 26) refers.

First and foremost, West’s assertion that The Witness has “become a little closer to farmers” is a reckless statement because as far as newspapers are concerned, they should be closer to the community of readers, not a segment section of the society.

Consequently, his arguments are lenient to farmers.

The writer uses an unnamed farmer to bolster his argument in attacking the land-claim process. However, the information about this land claim is not complete and does not even indicate the channels that the ghost farmer has followed in pursuit of the land claim. Yet the writer uses such incomplete information to support his claims.

West happens to be more interested in irrelevant information on the case of this unnamed farmer.

You do not have to be a rocket scientist to realise that if you leave your valuables unattended, they will be stolen. Hence, this is irrelevant to the land claims process that West is attacking.

It is a skewed understanding that land reform is about obtaining more land from commercial farmers, as West claims.

It should be noted that land reform is about restoring land to its rightful owners and restoring their dignity, which was usurped by unjust apartheid laws, such as the 1913 Natives’ Land Act and the Group Areas Act.

In short, by attacking land reform, we deduce that the writer is defending apartheid legacies.

The author is committing an argumentum ad verecundiam fallacy because his conclusions are based on the unnamed publication that, in our view, can never have access to the complete information about land claims, except through the official publication of the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights (CRLR).

Nevertheless, West cannot conclude that the entire land-claim process has failed based on figures of one province from an unnamed publication. We challenge West to read the annual reports of the CRLR, which are obtainable from the commission.

The author confuses land claims with land reform. For the point of correction, land claims (also called land restitution) is part of land reform, not land reform itself. Land reform is made up of four pillars, which are land restitution, land development, land redistribution and land tenure.

You do not have to be a land-reform specialist to understand as to whether people were aware of the first land-claim process.

It is important to note that the majority of land-claim beneficiaries are rural people and some of them may not have received the message of the first land-claim process.

Since the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform always acts in the interest of the people, it heeded the call for the reopening of land claims.

It is common knowledge that the main cause of the problem for processing claims in the first process was caused by manually processing claims on forms.

However, things have changed in the ongoing process, as the department has introduced an electronic lodgement system.

The department has also deployed mobile units to reach far-flung areas to ensure that everybody exercises their constitutional right to lodge a land claim.

The National Development Plan (NDP) is not a blueprint to land reform, as Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha rightfully said in his speech during the recent Western Cape Provincial Land Reform Summit.

“We need to move forward in this spirit of debate and discussion and not be fixated on implementing the NDP word for word. We must learn as we go along, otherwise our dogmatism may cause more problems,” Skwatsha said.

As enshrined in our Constitution, South Africa belongs to those who live and work in it, and the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is mandated to realise this.

• Thobani kaMajwabana Mhlongo and Lungelo Mkamba work for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform but write in their personal capacity.

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